Sapporo, the city of the north… Despite it’s harsh winter weather and average annual snowfall of about 6 metres, it’s surprisingly Japan’s 5th largest city. It’s not constantly dark and gloomy, though. Just think, endless chances to have snowball fights, make snow angels, go skiing, eat fresh seafood, slurp down miso ramen – there’s a lot to love! And there’s one more big reason we are obsessed with Sapporo…
During the second week of February, the normal 2 million population skyrockets as people from all over the world come to see the annual Sapporo Yuki Matsuri. This year, the event saw a hefty 2.6 million visitors! There are many snow festivals in Japan – you may recall I went to the Tokamachi Snow Festival a couple of years back – but Sapporo’s is the grandfather of them all. It’s been on my bucket list forever!
The main park, Odori Koen, transforms into an outdoor snow museum with sculptures of all sizes. There are many small sculptures, but the towering 20m-high ones are the biggest drawcard; this year, there was a Star Wars-theme, Final Fantasy VII-theme, Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, and world heritage Kofukiji Temple sculpture. It’s incredible to stand below these and realize just how much work went into creating them – it really is like snow magic.
Another section of the park is dedicated to the International Snow Sculpture Contest, where teams from around the world compete to be the snow sculpture champions. This year the Macao team won with their ‘crane dance’, and Latvia came second with their ‘wooden dreams’ – both were my favourites, too. The crane sculpture reminded me of the elegant mating dance Japanese cranes do in winter, which is something I want to see with my own eyes one day. And the design of the Latvian sculpture was so original and intriguing – a head made of timber with a forest inside its forehead!
Meanwhile, the downtown area of Susukino is where you will find the ice sculptures. Oddly, they are placed in the middle of a busy road, so you’re forever dodging cars. It’s harder to see the detail in the ice sculptures, but there was one of a crown tail fish which I thought was absolutely stunning.
Aside from the sculptures, there is a lot of other entertainment. We went ice skating, watched music performances, cheered on ski jumpers, climbed to the top of the TV tower and ate as much Sapporo food as we could before jumping on the plane back to Tokyo.
♦ The city
♦ The food
♦ The sculptures